Officials from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) heard from residents of the Southeast Side about proposed rule changes that would increase requirements for facilities that handle neurotoxic manganese, similar to what is required for petcoke and coal. The proposal comes as U.S. EPA begins soil testing around a facility in the community that has been under active investigation for manganese air pollution, after the City revealed test results in early May showing disturbing levels of manganese in the soil. Residents and advocates attending yesterday’s public hearing stressed that the City needs to do more, specifically asking the City to shut down the manganese facilities or at minimum require complete enclosure and robust air monitoring of the sites, along with a reassessment of the level of manganese exposure government agencies use to gauge health risks.
The bulk material handling rule was initially adopted to address the giant, open piles of toxic, dusty petcoke stored in the Southeast Side, including at a KCBX terminal across the river from the S.H. Bell facility.
Public comments also highlighted the narrowness of the proposed rule change, in light of the existing cumulative pollution burdens on this community and a number of other new, heavy industrial facilities facing it. Residents reiterated their call for a moratorium on industrial permitting while the city adopts a comprehensive solution to the cumulative pollution burdens faced by environmental justice communities like the Southeast Side.
Following is a joint statement from Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (SSCBP), Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF), Moms Clean Air Force, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Nurses United, and Reclaim Chicago:
“This community has suffered the harm of pollution for years, and we cannot continue to wait while another generations of Southeast Siders is put at risk by the same polluters. The narrow focus of the rules that the City is proposing for manganese handling doesn’t go far enough, and the problems and polluting industries that are not addressed in the City’s proposed changes leave the health of the community at risk.
The manganese proposal is a well-intentioned step, but Southeast Side families demand that this dangerous neurotoxin be removed from the neighborhood. Despite the many families coming forward with stories of illness, they are essentially being told to wait while researchers, health professionals, and City and federal agencies evaluate how manganese pollution is impacting Southeast Siders.
“The City needs to stop putting band aids on the enormous pollution burden that the community is facing and put in place a ban on handling manganese and a moratorium on industrial permitting while addressing the cumulative contamination in our neighborhoods.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.